[This is an excerpt from When I Was Thirteen, copyright the estate of Christina Young Plumb. It is the diary of a thirteen year old girl in south-western Ontario at the end of the nineteenth century.]
April 12, 1897 – This is Good Friday, so we had no school today, and Monday will be a holiday, too.
Munroes had a party last night for Katharine, who is home for over Easter. She is the saint of this neighbourhood. When anyone is extra good or gentle, or doesn’t ever get mad or say anything mean about anybody, when everybody else is saying mean things, we say that person is almost as good as Kate Munro. She never says any slang words, even when she gets excited, and that’s a pretty good sign there’s no slang in her. Sometimes I wish she would forget and say “Gee whiz” or “Jiminy Cricket” or something like that, but she never does. I guess she’s walking on a little higher ground than I am, and if I want to be right at home with her I’ll have to climb up, for she will not come down. I think she really loves everybody the way the Bible says we should, for if anybody does anything wrong or improper, and people are talking about the one that did it and remembering all the other bad things that person did and seeing how much they can rake up against the person, and making things out as bad as they can, Kate Munro never says anything, but gets rather red and ashamed looking as if the people were talking about a real brother or sister of hers that she loved.
Some of the others around are good Christians in most every way. They don’t use slang or do anything improper, and they go to church and testify and all, but they don’t act like Kate Munro does about the sins of other people. They seem to like to publish them a little, and so I don’t think they really do love their neighbours as themselves, or love people the way Christ does.
I am that way myself, and so I know I’m not a very good Christian yet. When I don’t like a person very well and I know something mean about them, and I’m with somebody else that doesn’t like them very well either, and we get talking about them, I’m almost sure to tell the mean things I know about them. And then, like as not, I find out something nice about them and begin to like them better, but I feel as if I must act to them the way I talked about them or else be a sneak, and the only way out is to tell them what I said about them, and then if they still want to be friends it’s all right.
I don’t suppose Kate Munro ever gets into any fixes like that, because she talks nothing bad about anyone. When anyone says anything mean about any of her friends, she never flares up the way I do, and gives that person a calling down and so makes them say things worse than ever when they are behind your back, but she explains things to them as if she liked them, too, and just thinks they don’t understand the situation, and that makes the person a friend of her friend instead of meaner about them than ever.
Ma says nobody’s wise enough to judge anybody else anyway, because if we were in their shoes and had been brought up in the way they were, we’d likely do no better ourselves, and the safest plan is to keep our mouths shut, when we start to talk about the sins of somebody else.
But some folks think the best way to boost themselves is to run down somebody else.